Civil Court Preponderance of Evidence FAQ
What is Preponderance of the Evidence in a Personal Injury Case?
In civil injury cases, the standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence. The plaintiff's burden is to prove the liability of the defendant with this standard.
But how the standard comes into play varies from one jurisdiction and court to another. Using the facts is how we make the case successful. And many of the civil lawsuits filed are personal injury claims. In other words, they are negligence claims using tort law.
And they require the plaintiff or injured party to prove specific elements:
- The defendant or negligent party owed a duty of care to the injured plaintiff.
- The negligent party or defendant breached the duty of care.
- But the plaintiff must have suffered injuries due to the violation of the duty of reasonable care by the negligent party.
The elements of a case, which is the plaintiff’s burden to prove in a civil lawsuit, involve credible evidence. So it might require documents, police reports, medical documents, expert testimony, and witness statements.
This is used as a way of showing the at-fault party caused the injuries and that they had a duty of care. The defendant will have an opportunity to present evidence to combat and contradict the plaintiff’s case. Afterward, or upon objections raised, the judge or jury will weigh the party's evidence to determine if the plaintiff proved its case.
How do Jurors Weigh the Evidence?
Their job as jurors is to weigh the evidence and return a decision. The preponderance of proof is the evidence with greater weight in convincing the judge or jury. Even if this tips the scale just a tiny bit, the Plaintiff should rightly win. But proving liability in a civil case means having significant evidence to sway the jury. So now your side of the case is more believable than the opposing party's case. Thus, if one side convinces the judge or jury by 51% they win.
However, some juries have been known to make a finding of fault, and awards a penny or "dollar," if they dislike the plaintiff. Thus, the art of legal advocacy, and taking on likable clients, is one of the oft-unspoken aspects of a case that is arguably even more important than being able to prove a case.
Many experienced attorneys can look through a plaintiff's case and see into the soul of the victim. If the victim comes off like a jerk, this fact alone could mean a hollow victory.
So this remains an exceptional sub-issue of proving a case that is worthy of further discussion.
Citations: "Preponderance" - Cornell University: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/preponderance